As I grew up in St. Louis, some of the most valuable relationships of my life were with Muslim Bosnian refugees, who make up a significant population of the city.
SOURCE: The Daily Iowan
In a suburb of St. Louis nicknamed “Little Bosnia,” a thriving community of 70,000 Bosnian refugees, the majority of whom are Muslim, live, work, and go to school. St. Louis is home to one of the largest populations of Bosnians outside Bosnia since the city welcomed 10,000 refugees during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.
When Bosnians began to settle in St. Louis, many moved into South City, a neighborhood riddled with crime and poverty that desperately needed a new population to revive it. Bosnian refugees did just that, opening businesses, schools, and mosques. The neighborhood became a diverse hub of prospering businesses and the home to community members who care about St. Louis and help the city to grow and thrive.
Ben Moore, the director of the Bosnian Memory Project, which means to preserve the history of Bosnian refugees in St. Louis, told STL Public Radio: “I think that the example that has been set by the Bosnian community here can go a long way to allaying those judgments. Most, if not all, Bosnians are Muslim in some way. The range of observance is very great here. It is a reminder that many of the stereotypes that arise in the media … just really don’t apply. The Muslim world is very variegated and integrated into the rest of the world, and certainly that’s the case in St. Louis.”
“Those judgments” refers to the false stereotypes of Muslim people that President Trump spreads through his dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric used to dissuade Americans from welcoming Muslim refugees to our country. Many, especially in St. Louis, look to the Bosnian community in the city to prove just how beneficial refugees are to any city.
If growing up in St. Louis has taught me anything, it is that a diverse community of cultures and religions provides an environment of enrichment, unity, and prosperity. The Bosnians in St. Louis are valuable members of the community who have brought South City from a destitute neighborhood to one of the city’s most booming.
A community that celebrates diversity is one that thrives. We can learn from the Bosnian refugees in St. Louis and work to further the enrichment of our American community by helping more refugees to call this country home and making them feel like the welcome and cherished community members they are.